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Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 18


Rescuers carry the body of a civilian at a site of an apartment building destroyed by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 18, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

10:00 p.m.: Longtime diplomat Bridget Brink was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, reports The Washington Post. The confirmation, which was unanimous, comes just as the U.S. is re-opening its embassy; it had been closed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

In a tweet, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the selection of Brink as "an excellent choice to lead our diplomatic mission as we continue standing with the Ukrainian people."

9:12 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in "intense contact" with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union to restore Ukrainian grain exports, he said Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Russia's war in Ukraine has caused global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer to soar, and Guterres warned this will worsen food, energy and economic crises in poor countries.

Ukraine used to export most of its goods through seaports, but since Russia's February 24 invasion, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.

8:47 p.m.: The World Bank said on Wednesday it will make $30 billion available to help stem a food security crisis threatened by Russia's war in Ukraine, which has cut off most grain exports from the two countries.

The total will include $12 billion in new projects and more than $18 billion from existing food and nutrition-related projects that have been approved but have not yet been disbursed, the bank said.

The majority of resources going to Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia.

8 p.m.: Google’s Russian subsidiary is unable to pay its staff and suppliers and is planning to file for bankruptcy, submitting notice of its intention to a national registry, according to Russian state media Wednesday.

The company said in a statement that it filed for bankruptcy because the "Russian authorities' seizure of Google Russia's bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations."

Google, which had previously suspended its business operations in Russia, said it would continue to provide its free services there.

7:17 p.m.: In his nightly address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said since Russia invaded nearly three months ago, it had already fired more than 2,000 missiles, which he said was a large part of its arsenal, leaving “only the remnants.”

He also compared Russia’s claim to have deployed “laser weapons systems” in Ukraine to the Nazi Germany’s propaganda about a “wonder weapon.”

“in the propaganda of Nazi Germany there was such a term ‘wunderwaffe.’ Wonder weapon. The clearer it became they had no chance in the war, the more propaganda there was about the wonder weapon, which would be so powerful that it would provide a turning point in the war,” Zelenskyy asid. “And here we see that in the third month of a full-scale war, Russia is trying to find its ‘wunderwaffe.’ Allegedly laser. All this clearly indicates the complete failure of the invasion.”

6:54 p.m.: Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic wants to try to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO in an attempt to force a change in Bosnian law, The Associated Press reported.

Before Croatia’s parliament ratifies NATO membership for the two Nordic nations, Milanovic wants a change in Bosnia’s electoral law that would make it easier for Bosnian Croats to get their representatives elected to leadership positions.

6:17 p.m.: The United States has condemned plans by Belarus to implement the death penalty against political opponents, calling it a desperate move by President Alexander Lukashenko to retain power, Agence France-Presse reports.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a new law signed by Lukashenko to use the death penalty for "terrorist" acts was in fact aimed at pro-democracy activists and opponents of Russia's war in Ukraine.

5:52 p.m.: Western allies have imposed crushing sanctions on persons and parts of the Russian economy following Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. But a major part of Russia’s economy is doing fine. Better than fine, says one analyst. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has the story.

5:15 p.m.: Burned-out armored vehicles, notebook doodles, shattered weapons, and the wreckage of a fighter jet are among items belonging to the Russian military to go on display at Ukraine's National Military History Museum in Kyiv. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Correspondent Taras Levchenko has this story.

4:55 p.m.: For Ruslan Gurzhiy, keeping the audience of his Russian-language news website informed on Ukraine means getting close to the action. As editor-in-chief of U.S.-based website Slavic Sacramento, Gurzhiy for months has been working from his desk in California to provide news and analysis on the invasion of Ukraine to a large Russian-speaking diaspora. On the day he spoke with VOA’s Sirwan Kajjo, Gurzhiy was on the road to the southern city of Mykolaiv, one of the first battlegrounds between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

4:10 p.m.:

3:45 p.m.: Germany will donate 15 Leopard 2 A4 tanks to the Czech armed forces, Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said, according to The Associated Press. Cernochova says the deal shows Germany’s appreciation of her country’s military help to Ukraine facing Russia’s aggression. The Czechs have given Ukraine unspecified Soviet-era heavy weapons worth at least $130 million.

Cernochova said Wednesday the tanks are ready for combat and the deal includes spare parts and ammunition and should arrive this year.

3:05 p.m.: After months of siege, Russia is taking control of Ukraine’s strategic port city, Mariupol, and aid workers say they do not know how many civilians remain. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, that many risked everything to get out but even now, they still live in fear.

Families Scattered as Mariupol Falls to Russian Forces
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2:30 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday, VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching reported. Speaking to the media, Cavusoglu repeated that Turkey has legitimate security concerns what he described as Sweden and Finland's support of "terrorist organizations," explaining why Ankara has been objecting to the Nordic countries' accession to NATO. "What I'm trying to say (is that) we understand their security concerns, but Turkey's security concerns should be also met,” he said. “And this is also one of the one issue that we should continue discussing with friends and allies including (the) United States. So (I am) looking forward (to) have a results-oriented and fruitful discussion today," he added.

2:04 p.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's life story - from comedian to wartime leader - has been given the graphic novel treatment in TidalWave Comics' latest biography, "Political Power: Volodymyr Zelenskyy," Reuters reported. The 22-page glossy, set for release on Friday, tells the story of how Zelenskyy, who once played a fictional president in a TV show, swept to power in 2019 promising to end a war with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. He had no political experience when he took office as the country's sixth president.

1:45 p.m.: The U.S. embassy in Kyiv reopened on Wednesday after a three-month closure because of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching tweeted. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement on Wednesday, saying “With strength of purpose, we reaffirm our commitment to the people and government of Ukraine, and we look forward to carrying out our mission from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.” Consular operations will not resume immediately and a no travel advisory from the State Department remains in place across Ukraine.

1:21 p.m.: A slew of top U.S. officials have made the dangerous voyage into Ukraine since the war began in February, raising the question: When will President Joe Biden make the trip? VOA's Anita Powell reports from the White House.

1:17 p.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is proposes extending martial law through the summer, The Kyiv Independent reports.

1:09 p.m.: The European Union on Wednesday urged member countries to quickly replenish their depleted stocks of ammunition and military equipment, offering financial incentives to those willing to work together to replace materiel sent to Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Many of the EU’s 27 members have sent equipment to help Ukrainian troops. At first it was mostly ammunition, but now includes portable missiles to destroy warplanes and tanks, as well as heavier equipment. The EU’s executive branch is offering a fund of $526 million over two years to countries willing to work in groups of at least three to replenish their stocks. Officials declined to say, for security reasons, what shortages nations have.

12:59 p.m.: State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday gave a readout Wednesday from a phone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching shared details on Twitter.

12:48 p.m.: Russia’s defense spending was up nearly 40% in the first four months of the year, according to preliminary data released by the finance ministry on Wednesday, almost three months into Moscow’s large-scale military campaign in Ukraine.

12:43 p.m.: Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday it had documented further cases of "apparent war crimes" by Russian troops in two regions in Ukraine. It said in a report that Russian forces controlling much of the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions from late February through March had subjected civilians to summary executions, torture and other grave abuses.

12:41 p.m.: Russia will finance the reconstruction of territories in Ukraine that it has taken control of and will repair roads that link those areas with Russia, RIA quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin as saying on Wednesday. Khusnullin said Russia had “freed” the territories, Reuters reported. He also said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe by capacity, will supply energy to Russia and to Ukraine if the latter pays for it, RIA reported. Russian troops seized the Zaporizhzhia plant from Ukraine.

12:38 p.m.: A senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday that Russian forces are making “incremental progress in the direction of the Black Sea” near Kherson and Mikolayiv, and some in Donetsk, though it is “fairly limited” and amounts to “a few kiilomters maybe every day.” He said Ukrainian forces continue to push back Russian forces northeast of Kharkiv, with some Russian troops being forced closer and closer to the Russian border. He assessed that there are “no indications” that Russia is having any success in disrupting the flow of aid to Ukraine though “we think they are certainly trying.” VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin shared more details of the briefing on Twitter.

12:34 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist gave opening remarks Wednesday ahead of their meeting at the Pentagon, VOA’s Carla Babb reported. Austin said he was “proud” that “our defense relationship with Sweden remains so strong” and that he looks forward to its contributions to the NATO alliance. “The United States strongly supports Sweden’s application for membership,” Austin added. Hultqvist said it is a “historic week” and added that “we are exercising our right to make our own choices in providing for our security.”

12:26 p.m.: The media freedom representative at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Teresa Ribeiro, on Wednesday called for the immediate release of Oleskii Vorontov, a media worker with Ukraine’s regional public broadcaster, VOA’s Press Freedom Editor Jessica Jerreat reported. Ukrainian media said Tuesday that Russian forces abducted Vorontov from his apartment in the occupied territory of Kherson and that his whereabouts are unknown. In a statement on Twitter, the OSCE’s Ribeiro described the abduction as “intolerable” and called for Vorontov to be freed.

12:02 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday, “I warmly welcome and strongly support the historic applications from Finland and Sweden for membership in NATO and look forward to working with the U.S. Congress and our NATO Allies to quickly bring Finland and Sweden into the strongest defensive alliance in history.” Biden is scheduled to meet with President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson in Washington Thursday, to discuss NATO and European security.

11:53 a.m.: The European Union’s Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said on Twitter Wednesday that the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war will be the largest European project of the 21st century so far.

11:45 a.m.: A pro-government Turkish newspaper says Turkey has drawn up a list of 10 demands it will reportedly ask Sweden and Finland to meet before it can approve their NATO membership, The Associated Press reported. The list published by Sabah newspaper on Wednesday calls on the two countries to stop any financial support to groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as well as to Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara views as extensions of the banned group. There are also demands that these countries halt contacts with members of the Syrian Kurdish group. Sabah said Turkey furthermore wants the two countries to “expedite” extradition proceedings for suspects wanted by Turkey on terror charges. The list also includes a demand that Sweden clamps down on what Sabah called a “disinformation” campaign against Turkey led by followers of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara claims was behind a coup attempt in 2016. Many followers of the Gulen movement have fled to Sweden.


11:30 a.m.:

11:14 a.m.: India is looking to domestic firms and eastern European nations for military gear and ammunition, Reuters reported. The world’s biggest buyer of Russian arms seeks alternative suppliers at a time when Moscow is fighting a war with Ukraine and facing sanctions. New Delhi has long talked of diversifying the suppliers to its huge armed forces, and even making more equipment at home, objectives that have taken on new urgency since Russia’s invasion, two government officials and a defense source said.

10:47 a.m.: Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol were taken to a hospital at Novoazovsk in the breakaway Donetsk republic, the Russian defence ministry said on a video on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Nearly 1,000 Ukrainian fighters who barricaded themselves into tunnels on the site have so far given themselves up to Russian and pro-Russian forces since Monday. Reuters could not independently verify the contents of the video. Ukrainian officials have halted all public discussion of the fate of fighters who had made their last stand at Azovstal.


10:39 a.m.:

10:34 a.m.: Representatives from five of the United Nations organizations working in Ukraine held a press conference Wedneday, providing updates on the humanitarian situation there.

"At least 20% of crops may not be harvested or grown in Ukraine, which will further reduce supplies and have serious consequences for Europe, Central Asia and other countries that depend on Ukrainian food supplies," said Viktoriia Mykhalchuk, a communications specialist with the Food and Agriculture Organization.

According to the World Health Organization’s public health specialist, Dr Margaret Harris, the war in Ukraine raised the risk of infectious diseases. “In Mariupol, where extensive damage to the water systems has mixed water with sewage, we are very concerned about the risk of cholera,” she said.

And the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR communications officer, Victoria Andrievska, said that “one-third of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes. This is the largest displacement crisis in the world today.”

The full briefing was posted to YouTube.

10:31 a.m.: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Amos Chapple reviews a selection of the domestically-produced weapons and vehicles that would bolster NATO's arsenal if Finland and Sweden are successful in their bids to join the military alliance.

10:23 a.m.:

10:11 a.m.: Poland is launching a new form of military service this month amid security concerns because of the war in neighboring Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. The Polish military said Wednesday that volunteers will be able to provide a year’s paid service that can be turned into long-term or professional service. Those who enter the program will go through 28-day training with a military unit, and then 11 months of service. They will be accommodated with their unit or outside, and will receive a pre-tax monthly pay of some $1,000. It was not immediately clear how much interest the offer could draw. The first volunteers will be able to enlist from May 21. A NATO member since 1999, Poland has some 111,500 professional soldiers and 32,000 volunteer territorial troops.

10:02 a.m.: Germany has registered a slight increase in the number of Russian nationals applying for asylum since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, an Interior Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday. In April, the second full month of the war, 222 people from Russia applied for asylum in Germany, the spokesperson said at a regular government news conference in Berlin, according to Reuters.

9:51 a.m.:

9:48 a.m.: The Czech Republic’s government has unanimously approved NATO membership for Finland and Sweden — just hours after the two countries submitted their requests, The Associated Press reported. Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Wednesday he welcomes the Scandinavian nations’ decisions to join the alliance. He added that their militaries fully meet all necessary accession criteria. The accession protocol still needs to be ratified by both chambers of Czech Parliament, which is expected to happen soon. Fiala said he doesn’t anticipate any obstacles, as governing parties hold the majority in both chambers of parliament.

9:33 a.m.: Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, millions of people have left their hometowns to move to safety — either to western Ukraine or to neighboring countries like Poland. Many took just a few belongings, but some others brought their businesses and are putting their know-how and connections to use to help those displaced by the war. VOA’s Anna Kosstutschenko has the story.

Entrepreneurs From Ukraine’s Kharkiv Relocate, Become Volunteers in Lviv
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9:15 a.m.: Russia’s capture of a massive steel plant in the port city of Mariupol where hundreds of soldiers ended their fight after a grueling siege will represent a symbolic victory for the Kremlin at this stage of its invasion of Ukraine rather than a significant military breakthrough, analysts said. Senior Correspondent Todd Prince has this overview for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

9:00 a.m.:

8:59 a.m.: The United States has mobilized about three times as much support for Ukraine as the European Union, according to figures compiled by a German think tank, The Associated Press reported. The Kiel Institute for the World Economy said Wednesday that a new aid package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives takes American military, financial and humanitarian support for Ukraine to over $45 billion between January 24 and May 10. The institute found that aid from the EU amounted to $16.8 billion during the same period. However, some countries in the 27-nation bloc have shied away from giving the value of their Ukraine aid, particularly for arms supplies. Compared to their gross domestic products, Estonia, Latvia and Poland provided the most support, ahead of the United States, according to the think tank’s calculations.


8:53 a.m.: The European Union intends to mobilise up to 300 billion euros of investments by 2030 to end its reliance on Russian oil and gas, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

8:49 a.m.: A Kyiv district court met on Wednesday to begin hearing its first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier who took part in Moscow’s February 24 invasion, a case of huge symbolic value for Ukraine. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian tank commander held in Ukraine, is charged with murdering a 62-year-old civilian in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on February 28. He told the court that he pleaded guilty. If convicted Shishimarin faces up to life imprisonment.

8:43 a.m.:

8:40 a.m.: Top-ranking Ukrainian commanders have not yet surrendered from the labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, the leader of the Russian-backed separatist region of Donetsk said on Wednesday. Russia's defence ministry said that in the past day 694 Ukrainian fighters - including members of the Azov regiment - had surrendered, including 29 wounded. It was unclear if the top commanders would leave the plant, or possibly even fight a last mortal battle with the Russian forces they regard as occupiers of their motherland, Reuters reported.

8:24 a.m.: Russia has announced the expulsion of dozens of French and Italian diplomats in a "retaliatory" move for their similar actions as part of a coordinated European action over Russia's campaign in Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday that it had informed the French ambassador that 34 employees of French "diplomatic institutions in Russia" had been declared personae non grata and must leave the country within two weeks. The same day, the ministry said 24 Italian diplomats were also being expelled for similar reasons. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the story.

8:20 a.m.:

7:46 a.m.: Vandals have daubed blue and yellow paint - Ukraine’s national colours - on a Russian monument to soldiers who perished fighting Napoleon’s forces in Switzerland in the 18th century, drawing a complaint from Moscow’s diplomatic mission, Reuters reported. “Hundreds of Russian men died fighting the French in the Swiss Alps. They have nothing to do with 21 century events, and their memory must not be desecrated,” the Russian mission in Geneva tweeted. It posted a video of past ceremonies at the stone-carved monument near the Devil’s Bridge in the central canton of Uri.

7:23 a.m.:

7:12 a.m.: Russia on Wednesday touted its new generation of laser weapons including a mobile laser system first announced by President Vladimir Putin in 2018 which Moscow said had advanced so far it could blind orbiting satellites and destroy drones, Reuters reported. Little is known about what exactly the laser weapon, named Peresvet does. Putin gave few specifics in 2018 and the laser’s details are secret. Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 km above Earth. He cited a test on Tuesday which he said had burned up a drone 5 km away within five seconds. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the test.

7:06 a.m.:

7:00 a.m.: The Danish Defense Intelligence Service on Wednesday heightened the threat level for cyber activism against Denmark because of the recent pro-Russian cyber activist attacks on Western European NATO countries, The Associated Press reported. Denmark’s Center for Cyber Security which is under the Scandinavian country’s foreign intelligence service, raised the threat level from low to medium - the third level on a five-step scale. The national IT security authority said that in the initial phase after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cyber-activist attacks mainly targeted Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. However, “in recent weeks, cyber activists have also hit targets in Western European NATO countries.”

6:56 a.m.: Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense praised Finland and Sweden for formally applying to join NATO in a message send Wednesday on Twitter.

6:44 a.m.: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday tweeted a message welcoming Finland and Sweden’s application for NATO membership.

6:39 a.m.: The foreign minister of Austria said his country would retain its neutral status even as EU allies Sweden and Finland overhauled decades-long foreign policy stances to apply for NATO membership in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported. "The situation for us looks a little different," Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, pointing to "overwhelming" public support for neutrality in Austria. Schallenberg said that the country, which obtains 80% of its natural gas from Russia, would continue to provide humanitarian support to Ukraine rather than lethal weapons.

6:35 a.m.:

6:24 a.m.: Russian forces continue to launch missile strikes and bombard military targets and civilians across Ukraine as talks are under way to release the fighters who have been transferred out of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said negotiations for the fighters' release were ongoing, as were plans to extract those who are still inside the sprawling steel plant. Ukraine's armed forces' General Staff said in an update on Wednesday that in Mariupol, Russian solders are continuing to block units in the Azovstal steel mill. The Ukrainian military said that Russian forces are also attacking in Donetsk in the east, and continue to shell border areas of Chernihiv and Sumy. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

6:21 a.m.:

6:20 a.m.: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that there was no movement in peace talks with Ukraine, and that Kyiv was showing a total unwillingness to continue them.

“Negotiations are not progressing and we note the complete unwillingness of Ukrainian negotiators to continue this process,” Peskov said.

Peskov’s comments echo that made earlier this week by Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko, who said the two sides are not holding talks “in any form,” according to Interfax news agency. Rudenko was also quoted as saying that Ukraine “has practically withdrawn” from the negotiations.

6:10 a.m.: Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak, who received criticism outside of Russia for wearing a pro-war symbol on a podium next to a Ukrainian athlete, has received a one-year ban for his actions, according to CNN.

The 20-year-old wore a ‘Z’ symbol taped to his leotard while standing next to Ukrainian gymnast Illia Kovtun on a podium in March — Kovtun won gold and Kuliak picked up bronze in the parallel bars at the gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar.

The ‘Z’ insignia has been displayed on tanks and vehicles used by the Russian military and has become a symbol of support for the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) criticized Kuliak for his "shocking behavior" and the athlete has now been sanctioned by the Disciplinary Commission of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation for violating FIG rules.

6:00 a.m.: Finland and Sweden have officially applied for membership in the NATO military alliance, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. VOA has the story.

5:30 a.m.: The explosion that took Olena Viter’s left leg also took her son, 14-year-old Ivan, a budding musician. Her husband Volodymyr buried him, along with another boy killed in the same blast, under a guelder rose bush in their garden. Amid the fighting, they couldn’t get to the cemetery. The Associated Press has the story.

5:20 a.m.: Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin said that a court would decide the fate of the Ukrainian fighters who had surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Reuters reported citing a local media outlet.

Russia said earlier on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

5:00 a.m.: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the country is open to the idea of an international criminal tribunal trying Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders over the war in Ukraine, The Guardian newspaper reported.

“We are very clear that Putin and all of those who’ve been behind the appalling war crimes that are being committed in Ukraine need to be held to account, and we’re working very closely with the international criminal court” Truss said during an interview on the digital Times Radio outlet.

4:50 a.m.: Russia’s defense ministry said Wednesday 959 Ukrainian troops have surrendered this week at the last stronghold in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

A ministry spokesman told reporters that number included 694 who had surrendered during the past 24 hours.

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed the figures. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said Monday more than 260 fighters had left the ruins of the Azovstal steel plant and turned themselves over to Russian forces, in line with numbers given by Russia.

Russia called the operation a mass surrender. The Ukrainians, in contrast, said its garrison had completed its mission.

4:10 a.m.: Reuters reported that Israel has delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests for emergency and civilian organizations in Ukraine.

3:00 a.m.: Russian gas producer Gazprom GAZP.MM said it continues to supply gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point, with volumes on Wednesday seen at 51.6 million cubic meters (mcm), up from 49.3 mcm on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Gazprom said an application to supply gas via the main Sokhranovka entry point, the Reuters report added, was rejected by Ukraine.

2:17 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the decision of Finland and Sweden to apply for membership in the alliance is "a good day at a critical moment for our security." Speaking alongside the ambassadors of both nations at NATO headquarters in Brussels. the secretary-general said:

"You have both made your own choice after thorough democratic processes, and I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO," Stoltenberg said to them.

"All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement," said Stoltenberg. "We all agree that we must stand together. And we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize."

2:00 a.m.: In its latest battleground intelligence report Wednesday, the British defense ministry said “staunch Ukrainian resistance delayed Russia’s ability to gain full control over” Mariupol despite encircling the city for over ten weeks. "This frustrated its [Russia’s] early attempts to capture a key city and inflicted costly personnel losses amongst Russian forces," the ministry said.

1:20 a.m.: A Ukrainian court will reconvene Wednesday, according to a judge, after holding a preliminary hearing May 13 in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s February 24 invasion. A captured Russian soldier has been charged with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said the defendant was a 21-year-old tank commander in the Kantemirovskaya tank division from the Moscow region. The prosecutor general had published a photograph of him ahead of the hearing. The defendant identified himself as Vadim Shishimarin, and confirmed that he was a Russian serviceman.

Prosecutors said Shishimarin and four other soldiers stole a car after their convoy came under attack. As they were travelling near the village of Shupakhivka in the Sumy region, they encountered the man on a bicycle.

“One of the soldiers ordered the accused to kill the civilian so that he would not denounce them,” the prosecutor’s office said.

In a video released earlier this month by authorities announcing his arrest, Shishimarin said he had come to fight in Ukraine to “support his mother financially.”

1:15 a.m.: Lawmakers in Finland voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in favor of the country joining NATO by a vote of 188-8, marking a dramatic reversal of Finland’s military non-alignment policy dating back more than 75 years. Agence France-Presse has the video:

12:30 a.m.: The fall of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol to Russia appeared imminent Tuesday as Ukraine moved to abandon the city’s sprawling steel plant, and hundreds of Kyiv fighters who had been holed up there turned themselves over to Russian forces in a deal reached by the warring parties.

The capture of Mariupol, a prewar city of 430,000 people along the north coast of the Sea of Azov, would be Moscow’s biggest success in its nearly three-month offensive against Ukraine. But Russia is struggling to capture more territory in eastern Ukraine and has failed to topple the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or take the capital, Kyiv. VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin reports.

Under constant Russian shelling, which Ukraine estimates has killed 20,000 civilians in Mariupol, much of the city has been reduced to rubble. What’s left of it is situated between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

More than 260 Ukrainian fighters — some of them seriously wounded and lying on stretchers — left the ruins of the Azovstal steel plant on Monday and turned themselves over to Russian forces. Ukrainian authorities said they were working to remove its remaining soldiers from the steel mill, but it was not clear how many remained.

Russia called the operation a mass surrender. The Ukrainians, in contrast, said its garrison had completed its mission.

12:01 a.m.: In an interview with VOA’s Ukranian Service Tuesday, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko spoke of the courage of Ukrainian forces who defended the once-thriving Southeastern seaport besieged by Russian artillery for 82 days.

"There is still a Ukrainian flag over Mariupol. And they were doing it against the powers that were [a] dozen times stronger. They were working professionally, almost without food or water. Without [much] weapons," Boychenko said.

He praised Denys Prokopenko, commander of Azov special regiment, who was in charge of the defense and others who supported Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

"They were not only holding Mariupol, but they’ve held back an immense power of 20-30 professional Russian military, said Boychenko. "It has allowed the other [Ukrainian] military groups, other cities to better prepare for this war."

Screenshot of Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko during a video interview with VOA's Ukrainian Service.
Screenshot of Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko during a video interview with VOA's Ukrainian Service.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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